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What's a "Tenured Friend" — And Who Is Yours?

Who's Your Tenured Friend? The Ultimate Friend Life Wouldn't Be The Same Without

Carefree young woman leaning on male friend while standing against sky

If you need a new definition, chances are TikTok has you covered. Whether it's a clean girl skincare routine, following loud budgeting or opting for a mob wife winter, there's a name for everything in this corner of the internet — including, now, your ultimate bestie. Your ride or die. Your go-to girlie. Enter the tenured friend.

Jennifer Mika coined the term tenured friend or frenure on TikTok to describe those people who are guaranteed to be in her life long-term. "Tenured friends are contractually set for life as friends with me," Mika explains, in a viral video that's had over 1.5 million views, "Five, seven, 10 years of friendship, maybe we've distanced ourselves and come right back, maybe we've had our fights and fallouts but we come back… they are set for life."


Receivers are so valuable

♬ original sound - Jennifer Mika

It could be a family friend, your childhood bestie or your university roommate, it is that person in your life who you can call in an emergency and depend on to be there for you. In the US, tenure means being awarded a permanent position (usually in teaching), so as the tenured friend you're contractually obliged to stay in this friendship – forever. No refunds.

This form of friendship goes beyond a girl from the group chat or that person you chat to after Pilates, they're the ultimate friend who your life simply would not be the same without. Many users in Mika's comments, considered their tenured friend to be their oldest friend or the one they see most often. One woman commented on the viral video: "I've always said seven years of friendship = frenured."

Yet, with any strong relationship, that connection isn't built on the years you've been in each other's lives, but the common interest, respect and trust you've found through shared life experience. In adult friendships, it's often easier to become close friends in a shorter period of time as you bond over dating stories, mutual hobbies or when working at the same company. Your oldest friend won't necessarily be your ultimate friend, but that doesn't mean you won't have a tenured friend in your life.

Psychologist Dr Becky Spelman, founder of the Private Therapy Clinic says: "The tenured friend trend reflects our innate human desire for long-lasting, dependable relationships. Friendships such as this are essential for our emotional well-being and resilience in challenging times."

Some of my tenured friends have eclipsed the oldest friends. After only a few years of knowing each other, they've been bumped up into the inner circle. Subjected to many a heartbroken voice note and last minute pick-me-up dinner date. One of my tenured friends and I have only known each other for four years. We both graduated from the same university and had mutual classmates in common, but had never met, until our paths finally crossed at our first job. Kitchen chats became scheduled weekly calls in lockdown, and our friendship blossomed over virtual screens and socially-distanced walks in the weeks and months that followed in 2020.

Technically, this woman is one of my newest friends, but she is a certified, life-long bestie. In many ways, we were always destined to meet. We grew up in the same area, went to the same university, but didn't meet until we started working together. Call it fate, call it coincidence, I have no doubt that she was meant to be in life. Sound familiar?

Mika described her tenured friend Cass in the simplest of terms: "I will always call her, and she will always answer." As adults, most of us have friends or acquaintances that we'd happily go for coffee with, perhaps even go on a long-weekend away with, but in an emergency, there's always one person (or a handful of names) that come into your mind first, who you know, regardless of what they're doing, they'll show up for you. It's a friendship built on the trust that when you need them, you also can reach out. This person might not be someone you see a lot anymore, but when you do, you both have the rare ability to pick up right where you left off.

Spelman reiterates that those life-long bonds aren't built over the amount of time you spend together, or the length of the friendship, but the strength of the connection that you share.

"A tenured friend, or best friend, is often someone you have known for a long time, but strong relationships can also develop quickly, regardless of how long you have known each other," Spelman adds. "Strong, long-term friendships and romantic relationships can develop in a short period of time due to shared experiences, mutual trust, support, and emotional connection. Much like romantic relationships, these qualities and good communication and support through the hard times, are all signs that a friendship is built to last."

Perhaps you have one tenured friend, perhaps you have several. The best part is there's still time for those new friendships to develop into long-lasting ones, and to celebrate your tenured friends to let them know how invaluable they are in your life.

Jess Bacon is a freelance culture and film journalist who has bylines in POPSUGAR, Dazed, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, GQ, Wonderland, The Guardian and The I. She's worked on digital entertainment desks for HuffPost UK, Stylist, Radio Times, Digital Spy, Metro and the Mirror.

Image Source: Getty / Klaus Vedfelt
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